Prandelli keeps believing

PA Sport
Cesare Prandelli is confident Italy can beat Ireland and advance to the quarter-finals

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Cesare Prandelli is confident Italy can beat Ireland and advance to the quarter-finals

Defiant Italy coach Cesare Prandelli insists the Azzuri still have every chance of qualifying for the Euro 2012 knockout stages despite having to settle for their second consecutive Group C draw.

The Italians will go into their final group game against the Republic of Ireland knowing only a win will be good enough to give them a chance of reaching the last eight. Prandelli's men looked set for victory over Croatia when Andrea Pirlo put them ahead. However, Mario Mandzukic netted his third goal in two games to salvage a point for his side.

Prandelli said: "We're still convinced we can get through. Mathematically we are not out of it. We need to play well, but we have wasted an opportunity here."

He added: "I don't think we lack character in any way, shape or form. But we do struggle, there is a drop in our level at the 60th minute.

"In terms of the last two games, at that stage of the game we lack fresh legs. We need to rest up after this, we need to see how we manage our energy levels."

In a bright start for Italy, Mario Balotelli fired just wide after three minutes and Claudio Marchisio shaved the bar, while Croatia's solitary early chance came when Nikica Jelavic just missed a chance in front of goal.

Marchisio then brought two saves out of Stipe Pletikosa before Pirlo stepped up to whip home a right-foot free-kick from 21 yards which crept inside the Croatia goalkeeper's right-hand post.

Croatia responded well with Luka Modric firing wide before Mandzukic - who also scored twice against the Republic of Ireland - fired home from six yards to pull his side level on 72 minutes.

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said: "I'm really satisfied that we've got four points from the two games. It could be even better but four points is optimal, realistic and now we have a real chance to go through.

"All I will say is that I'm very optimistic for the next match."

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